Paulo Szot — best known for his Tony Award-winning Broadway debut in the 2008 revival of South Pacific — is a man of many voices. While a thick Brazilian accent blends with his deep baritone in casual conversation, it melts away as he breaks into his rendition of "Too Darn Hot" from the American classic Kiss Me Kate. From August 5-11, the opera singer will be putting all of his voices on display at 54 Below in a show that blends his Brazilian roots with his newfound niche as a master of Golden Age standards. Szot sat down with TheaterMania at the Broadway nightclub to give us a rundown of what audiences can expect to see, teasing us with a few hints about a surprise duet, and promising a performance of the one song he never leaves home without.
What made you decide to put together a show for 54 Below?
I always wanted to see this new place. Before that I was playing only [at] the Carlyle, and from what I understand this is a place for Broadway performances, so I was very glad when they asked me.
Do you like the cabaret atmosphere?
Yeah, absolutely. And I think this place is beautiful, first of all, and it's a great opportunity for Broadway artists to perform.
What does your set list look like?
We're doing a mix of Broadway Golden Age songs, some American standards, and of course, Brazilian music. Most of [the Brazilian pieces] are composed by Antonio Carlos Jobim, who introduced Bossa Nova to the world, so it's very traditional to Brazil. I got a great drummer and bass player that are very familiar with Brazilian music so we can [all] pass for Brazilians. (laughs)
Is there one song in your set list that you're most excited to perform?
Yes. I love a song that we chose to do, and actually, we are doing [it] as a duet. I have a guest — I cannot say the name yet — but we are doing a duet from Follies: "Too Many Mornings."
Growing up, were you familiar with the Broadway standards you sing now, or did you discover most of them when you came to Broadway yourself?
[I knew] some of them. I discovered many things that we are doing here that I had no idea. We are doing a song from Kiss Me, Kate, Stop the World, I Want to Get Off…songs that are part of the Golden Age tradition of singing.
Have you discovered a favorite showtune since entering the Broadway world?
I go around and I go through all the songs, but because it's part of me, the song that I most love — and it will be always a part of my show — is "This Nearly Was Mine" from South Pacific.